New Site Organizes ABC’s of Brooklyn’s Eateries


Before making brunch plans this weekend, it’s worth taking a look at Aaron Dancygier’s new Web site––which allows visitors to research restaurants’ health inspection histories in various ways, including by neighborhood, location and inspection grade. If the A, B, C’s of an eatery are more important to you than the 1, 2, 3 stars it might have received or is Zagat rating, this Web site might become your new best friend.

Dancygier built the site after the city began grading restaurants a few years ago. “When the city launched their site I really felt that it left a great deal of room for improvement,” he says. “The first thing that bothered me about the city’s site is you can’t link to restaurant inspections. Their site is explicitly designed to make it impossible to share information, and we live in age of sharing.”

With the site’s motto–“You never know what’s making you sick (or fat)”–in mind, Dancygier decided to improve upon the city’s system by taking the health inspection data and incorporating it with online tools people already use when searching for restaurants. He started by designing a health inspections bookmarklet. “This bookmarklet integrates with restaurant landing pages of Yelp, Menupages, Citysearch and OpenTable,” he says. “It’s actually pretty cool. If you aren’t familiar with a bookmarklet, it’s a link with a piece of javascript that integrates with the page you are currently on. What I do is parse the page for name and address; make a call out to my server; get the inspection results; and finally inject it into an iframe on the current page. You can see a video of it on the bookmarklet page.”

In addition to these integrative tools, NYC Health Ratings also allows visitors to to perform Google Map searches, browse restaurants by neighborhood, create an account to keep tabs on favorite restaurants and follow it on Twitter. The site’s Twitter account posts the week’s latest restaurant inspections daily from 9 am to 9 pm. Android smartphone users can also download a new app to access NYC Health Ratings on the go.

“I’ve been thinking of new features and adding them one by one,” Dancygier says. “In reality I see the future of this site being mobile and local. “For local, I’m looking to really build out the neighborhood landing pages, make them more robust with the ability to filter cuisines and grades.  I’m also looking to create a neighborhood dashboard page with stats on restaurants by neighborhood.”

A “This Week’s Stats” section on the Web site’s home page also allows users to see rankings of the week’s 10 best and worst neighborhoods based on health inspections. Bushwick, East Williamsburg and Clinton Hill were all named best neighborhoods this week.

Inevitably the transparency of the site’s information sharing has the potential to rub a few restaurants owners the wrong way, but Dancygier says NYC Health Ratings was always intended to be for foodies. He’s currently working on a version for San Francisco.

“I think a public restaurant ratings system is great for the well being of the city,” he says. “The well being of the citizens of New York is more important than the inconvenience restaurant owners face in having to be on top things.”

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